Last month, after I had the temerity to criticize Pope Francis because he smeared survivors of clerical sexual abuse in Chile, I got a phone call at my desk at the Globe.
Now, since we moved from our Dorchester offices, where we parked for free on the deck overlooking the Southeast Expressway, to a beautiful shiny office tower downtown, where parking in those fancy-schmancy underground garages requires you to take out a home equity line, I make an appearance at the new Globe digs about as often as the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C., admits he’s wrong.
Which is, basically, never.
But, on this particular day, I happened to stroll into the newsroom and sit down at my desk, and when the phone started ringing, I cleared some cobwebs away and picked it up.
“Is this Mr. Cullen?” a raspy voice asked.
For a fleeting moment, I thought it was one of my favorite aunts, Aunt Junie, who looked like my dad, but then I quickly remembered that my Aunt Junie died some years ago.
“Yes, this is me,” I answered.
“Mr. Cullen,” the woman on the other end of the line said, “I just want to let you know that you are going to hell.”
I thought of admonishing this woman, who no doubt considers herself a fine Christian, citing perhaps a Bible verse, maybe Matthew 7:1, about the importance of not judging lest ye be judged.
But, I had very important things to do, such as regard my cuticles, so all I said was, “OK, thanks, ma’am. I’ll save you a seat.”
I got thinking about the Church Lady who condemned me to eternal fire the other day as I was reading a story about how, despite the pope’s denials, he was, in fact, told about how his protege, a Chilean bishop named Juan Barros, was credibly accused of having ignored the crimes of a priest whom the Vatican later found guilty of sexually abusing young people.
I wonder if the Church Lady, if any of the holy rollers who responded to my column last month with the type of vicious, vile condemnation that I usually get from racists and nativists who don’t like when I write sympathetically about undocumented immigrants, read this story about what the pope knew and when he knew it.
Maybe they read it, and maybe they discounted it as just more lies from the secular, immoral press.
To his credit, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Boston’s archbishop and the pope’s point man on sexual abuse, called out his boss after Francis accused Barros’s critics of having slandered the poor, poor bishop. O’Malley offered a robust defense of the survivors in Chile, and for that, O’Malley should be applauded.
I asked to speak with O’Malley about all this, but he declined. His spokesman, Terry Donilon, referred me to the Vatican. Which was pretty amusing. People in the Vatican wouldn’t tell me if my pants were on fire. They don’t answer such questions about the pope at the Vatican. They issue encyclicals. And they do their level best to protect some of the worst enablers of child abuse in the world, and that includes Bishop Barros, the pope’s protege.
Donilon did confirm to me that O’Malley, in fact, delivered to the pope a letter from Juan Carlos Cruz in which Cruz accused Barros of knowing that a notorious priest named Francisco Karadima routinely molested boys, including Cruz himself.
But I wanted to ask Cardinal O’Malley this: Does he think his buddy the pope is lying when he denied ever knowing of allegations against Barros? Or did the pope just forget that O’Malley gave him that letter? Or did the pope simply not read the letter, because he didn’t want to know what was in it?
O’Malley might not want to talk to me, but he probably should want to talk to the pope about this, given that his reputation with the survivors of clerical sexual abuse is on the line right along with his boss’s.
Juan Carlos Cruz says this all proves that the pope is covering up for his buddies, those who continue to enable sexual abuse. I’m with Mr. Cruz and the rest of the survivors in Chile, who a secular court in Chile and even the Vatican itself found credible in a 2011 ruling.
Of course, the Church Lady who has already made the drapes for me in hell won’t change her opinion, nor will those who have blind faith in matters of faith.
Maybe someday, if God is as good and as great as his most ardent admirers say, the scales will fall from their eyes.
But then again, probably not.
I still deeply admire the good, ordinary priests and nuns who work with the poor, visit the sick, and try to emulate Jesus. There are many of them in this city, in this archdiocese. As for those self-regarding bureaucrats at corporate headquarters in Vatican City, well, I couldn’t care less.
In the meantime, I will continue to regard any and all encyclicals, advisories, and finger-wagging admonishments from the frauds who people the Vatican with all the credibility I reserve for writings I find on the walls of bathroom stalls.
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